Wednesday 27 June 2012

I Swear, Therefore I Am

Foul language is the mark of the uneducated,
The ones who didn’t persevere. 
Whilst the educated stuck it
To avoid obscenities like fuck it,
From the learned, oh fiddlesticks is all you will hear.
At the time of writing this, Screecher Creature No. 3 was shouting “bollix, bollix, bollix” over and over again.  I have often caught him swearing at a toy, calling it an “effin’ yoke.”  Insert full and proper obscenity here.  I do it myself.  When I hear something I like, I tend to retain it but once I repeat it back, it’s gone.  Whoosh!  Out of my head, never to be thought of again.  I wish Screecher Creature No. 3 would forget his expletives as soon as he uses them. Kids are like sponges, or so I’ve read often enough.  They will soak up everything, oblivious to the appropriateness of whatever it is they have just heard, and spit it back out again.   Apparently when I was three or four, my father had me spell the poo word for a friend of his.  Outside the church of all places.  It was received with great merriment.  When I was a lot older, to know better at least, I told my mother where to go by writing it on a blackboard.  I cannot recall the crime that was committed against me that drove me to do it, and allow her to see it in retaliation, but I do remember getting a wallop for my efforts (my mother has mellowed a lot since) and sent to bed.  If I hark back, it was a bright Summers evening and after about a half hour or so, by my reckoning, I crept out of the bed thinking all would have been forgiven. I got another crack for myself and was sent straight back to the scratcher.  Right now I am ignoring Screecher Creature No. 3 in the hope that he stops swearing or at least takes it down a notch and doesn’t waken his sleeping baby brother.  (I need to get this done.  I haven’t time to discipline.)  I swear myself sometimes.  I admit it.  I probably do it a lot more than is strictly necessary.  Oh alright then, I definitely do it a lot more than is strictly necessary.  I get great liberation from it.  I tend to get colourful when I’m cross, when I feel passionate about something and when I drop things.   I didn’t always do this.  At least I don’t think I did.  I remember working for a female boss who swore like a trooper.  It shocked me.  Probably because it was my first proper job outside my home town and up until then, employers always behaved and spoke professionally.  I didn’t know how to take this profanity liking woman.  She admitted that her husband hated her swearing.  Hated it but she got great release from it.  I get that now.  Mister Husband doesn’t like me swearing either but *whispers* he should talk.  Bland outbursts like “sausages” “sugar” and “fiddlesticks” just don’t cut it for me. Only a full on hard core expletive will do the job.  I’m not Quentin Tarantino now or anything, I do have a cut- off point; I just have to find it is all.  In fairness to the Screechers, for boys who are exposed to their fair share of bad words, they don’t indulge themselves.  It is just Screecher Creature No. 3 who gets colourful on occasion which is a good thing because usually I can’t help grinning when he gets vocally artistic. Yes, they call each other “stoopid,” and “dumbass” has been used on occasion.  Those fekin American cartoons!  “Poopy head” is one that is guaranteed to be followed by howls of hysterical laughter.   I always pull them up when they insult each other.  Telling someone they are stupid, in my opinion, is worse than swearing.  A cuss word is, after all, just a word, but an insult has real power to hurt and scar.  I feel there is a big difference between selectively ignoring the odd four letter word and not getting shirty with them when they disrespect each other.  Screecher Creature No. 3 really is just repeating what he has heard so it is up to me, his teacher, to make a conscious effort to cut back on the profanities.  I’ll try to keep them in my head now but like a lot of things these days, sometimes they just escape!   

Wednesday 20 June 2012

A Gentle Reminder

I am due to have a womanly examination next month. I am neither looking forward to it nor am I dreading it.  It simply has to be done.  It takes literally a couple of minutes and it could save my life.  It is a smear or Pap test.  This is the light scraping of cells from my cervix, a painless procedure even if it does involve “sticking my bum in someone’s face” which will then be sent to a laboratory to determine whether the cells are normal or not.  It is recommended that women aged 25 to 44 have this test every three years and women aged 45 to 60 every five years.  Regardless of age however, once a woman has her first test, she needs to have two normal results before she can move onto the five year test.  This time frame will obviously change if abnormal cells are detected in the meantime.   So that’s one slightly uncomfortable and undignified two minute test every few years to keep you healthy.  What could be less time consuming?  It takes longer to brush your teeth.  If you’re brushing them properly.  The reassuring thing about cervical cancer is; it is one of the good cancers to have.  If there is such a thing as a good cancer to get.  I hear that a lot lately and I wonder who are they trying to kid.  Personally I don’t care how good or bad a cancer is; cancer is still cancer and if there is a way to significantly increase my chances of remaining cancer free, I will do it.  Quitting the smokes is one way of reducing that risk.  But giving up the habit also significantly reduces every other cancer risk as well so you are onto a winner immediately.  See your GP straight away if there are any changes in your cervix.  You will know because you may have bleeding or spotting at irregular intervals. And the best way of all to reduce the risk is go for those regular smear tests.  I keep repeating this. I don’t think you can say it often enough.  It’s important that people are getting the message because I know there are plenty of women who avoid going for this test.  They go out of their way to avoid it.  I know of someone who changes their doctor every three years or when the doctor starts pressuring them to have the test, whichever happens first.  They reckon they are too squeamish.  Cancer doesn’t know or care what squeamish is.  I know a mother of two who has never had this test done.  Ever.  They may even have said they just never got around to it.  Cancer doesn’t give a toss about your timetable either. There are younger people out there, in their twenties, who are of the opinion that being in your twenties is enough to protect you.  They are not in the “risk” category, apparently.  Cervical cancer isn’t fussy whether you lost your virginity at 15 or 35.  Once you are sexually active, you are “at risk.”     Cervical cells change so slowly and take so long develop which makes it a preventable disease.  Once you go for the test that is.   This is why a test is required only every couple of years.  That’s how leisurely it is.  All the same, it is the second most common form of female cancer in Europe.  It is also worth noting that if a family member has abnormal test results, i.e. has been found to have cancerous cells; this does not mean that your chances are increased.  In other words, cervical cancer does not run in families.  This test is free.  If you received an offer from your car dealership, optician or even your dentist, offering you, free of charge, a full road test, a complete eye exam or a dental clean, would you turn them down?  Would you drive your car if the tyres were bald?  What about with broken wipers on a wet day?  Would you let your child out on his bike if the brakes were dodgy?  Yes, you have to go in, drop your drawers whilst grinning (or maybe not!) and bearing it for a couple of minutes for an intimate examination.  I can think of better and nicer things I would rather do as well, but I’ve had enough of these tests done now to know how quick the procedure is.  We owe it to ourselves to have this test.  We owe it to our kids.  Cervical cancer may be an easy one to “catch” and treat but if it’s the one that we let get away, it can and will kill us.  Our kids will be without their mother.  And all because we didn’t find the time, we were too squeamish or were of the opinion that it won’t happen to us.  It can and it could!  Please, do you and yours a favour today; research for more details on cervical screening.  Once you are registered they will even send you out a reminder for future checks.   It will also show you where you can go for this test if you don’t want to visit your family GP, the one that has known you since you were in nappies.  I know they’ve “seen it all before” but if they haven’t seen yours nor do you want them to, that’s fair enough. Go somewhere else.  Anywhere else.  Just go!

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Group Therapy

My name is Gwen and I am the mother of four gorgeous Screecher Creature boys who have inspired me to write a blog called documenting our adventures together, breastfeeding and otherwise. They stretch my patience to the limit every day and also my love.  Thankfully though, my love for them has no limits.  Having said that, we all need a little respite now and again and what better way to get that then by meeting up with a group of like-minded contemporaries.  So I was delighted to see such a group -  Cuidiu - ICT Breastfeeding Support Group being set up in my hometown, Athy, Co. Kildare.   I am fortunate to have enjoyed a very successful and wonderful breastfeeding relationship with my three older boys and the same was proving to be the case with my then three month old.  Being totally honest, I went along to the group that first week mostly out of curiosity.  You see, I “knew” Angela from an Irish parenting website and welcomed the opportunity to meet her in person.  That was a year ago and I can again, honestly say, her group is one of the highlights of my week.  It has grown from strength to strength and many of those ladies and their babies, who then ranged from 6 weeks old to one year, are not strangers with odd usernames on anymore, but friends.   Our newborn babies, and indeed toddlers, have grown together.  We have shared the first smiles, first teeth, baby led weaning tips and stories, that all important and very exciting first step, plus the trials and tribulations of breastfeeding our older children.  For we are all “still” breastfeeding our babies and one or two are “still” very much enjoying sharing that closeness with their older children.  None of us have plans to stop any time soon.    From the very beginning Angela’s group has been a great success.  I have seen new first time mothers walk through Angela’s door with various problems borne from conflicting information received in the hospital, mothers with babies who were slow to gain weight, those with a poor latch and a baby who was born early.  There have been mothers who experienced traumatic births but nevertheless sailed through breastfeeding their older child, and then suddenly found themselves experiencing an unexpected problem feeding their new baby.  I saw Angela help and assist them all.  Tirelessly.  I salute each and every woman who has taken it upon themselves to create breastfeeding groups in local communities, whether they have 15 members or 100 members.  I believe such groups serve a dual purpose; they are there to offer a helping hand and to assist mothers with their breastfeeding journey but they are also a wonderful chance for me, and I am sure lots of other mothers across the country, to be in the company of like-minded parents.    It is an opportunity for me to be social and helps me escape the confines of the house with three small children until school is out and the oldest boy returns home. If I am of a mind I will wear a bit of make-up, maybe even brush my hair before going and make sure my shoes match.  The boys, for I don’t travel alone, also enjoy this break from the norm and I am sure, even though they are not fully aware of it, appreciate their new and energised mother afterwards, thanks to the company and the chat.     I am of the strong opinion that such gatherings, be they mother and toddler groups or breast feeding groups, are very important for those of us who are not in the vicinity of water coolers in an office environment anymore thus cannot avail of the social outlet they provide.  A vomiting bug visited our house in May and I was unable to attend my beloved Group.  If there was any doubt in my mind about my attachment to it, (there wasn’t) missing it that week only proved to me how invaluable that weekly contact with Angela and the other ladies is.  And, it has to be said, it’s the best cup of coffee all week!

Wednesday 6 June 2012

The Last One

There I was, surrounded by all of my male Screecher Creatures and in my arms I held a month old vision in strawberry pinkness.  A truly beautiful little girl looked up at me with unblinking eyes, starfish hands opening and closing and her little mouth making a definite attempt to smile at me.  Mister Husband looked on from the kitchen doorway and asked, “Are you sure you’re finished?”  This little baby and her pending arrival had me worried for a while.  I honestly didn’t know how I would feel when I saw her.  Would she kick start my dormant broodiness or would I be able to hold her and not feel a thing?  I answered Mister Husband honestly, “Yes.”  And I am, for the moment at least, finished.  My family is complete.  I do not harbour any desire to keep going.  I say my family and not ours because Mister Husband has left that ball more or less in my court.  And I say for the moment because I still don’t know how I will feel maybe next month or even next year. However, this December I will turn 40 and for me that was always going to be the cut-off point. I know the chances of having a child with a mental or physical disability are slightly raised the older you become, but this has happened for mothers in their twenties and thirties.  There is also the reality of facing back into night feeds, having a second child in nappies again, being pregnant for 10 months and all that goes hand in hand with that status.  Not to mention the inevitable weight gain and the slog to shed the excess pounds afterwards.  The stress that is involved arranging childcare when ante natal appointments have to be attended.  Then for the ensuing duration of a hospital confinement when the baby is born.  All of that is just chicken feed though because if I really, really, really wanted another baby, any of those reasons not to have one wouldn’t stand a chance.  But there is one thing that, for me, stands out a little bit more in the deterrent stakes.  Guilt.  Having four boys aged 6 and under, there is still only one of me.  I cannot make quarters of myself when they are all still at quite a demanding and needing stage. It can be very difficult when two or more of them are crying for something or if one has an accident and hurts himself; they just don’t understand, nor will they accept that they might have to wait their turn for attention whilst I prioritise one over the other depending on their needs.  Recently my sister in law reminded me of a particularly stressful nightly re-occurrence with small babies and older children.  The newborn is in the midst of the witching hour and fussing terribly to cluster feed.  The toddler is also crotchety and wanting to go to bed. Or not.  It’s literally a balancing act between the two of them and then there are two more waiting for a bed time story.  Stress levels are going through the roof and no-one is happy with the service being provided, least of all the recipients who are feeing decidedly short changed.  And for good reason as corners are not cut, more like shaved off completely.  I’m definitely not missing that particular bed time pressure at the moment.  There is an old adage that follows thus: you have only one mouth and two ears so listen twice as much as you talk.  In my house there are four voices clamouring to be heard and still only one set of ears.  Mine.  Not only is it challenging to listen to them all at once, it is downright impossible to answer them all.  It doesn’t matter what I do, one of them misses out.  There never seems to be an opportunity to spend one on one time with any of them.  That is the guilt making part.  I always feel as if one of them is missing out.  I quite simply don’t have equal time to devote to them all. At the moment Screecher Creature No. 1 gets his downtime with me when I rub athlete’s cream onto his feet.  Screecher Creature No. 2 is showered in my brief attention for as long as it takes me to pull his clothes over his head.  Screecher Creature No. 3 is privileged to have me wipe his derriere.  The baby seems to get the best deal all round.  I am in no hurry to rush him as he nurses.  I relish the opportunity to relax as much as he enjoys his grub and uses his reclined position to stick his fingers up my nose.  Plus being  just 14 months old and still doing the side step around various pieces of furniture, he also likes to spend a good deal of time in my arms.  I’ve tried group story telling but being of different ages and stages, arguments break out over who wants what book read.  There have been moments where tiredness starts to win out and they all gather close to tell me something individually. This always ends up in a fight as they scrabble to get closer to me and my feet get trampled on.  I have been known to be seated in a chair with three of them sitting on me.  They’ve found a way though, it seems, to spend some time with me.  It doesn’t matter how quietly I do it, their sixth sense kicks in and they know I’m in the shower. One or more of them will come in and just sit on the floor. Sometimes there are random questions but mostly, they just sit there, content in the knowledge that they have a captive audience.  They also like to wait till the house has quieted and they are meant to be in their beds, on the way to Dreamland.  There will be a steady stream of little feet up the hallway, followed by a russet, or dark blond head peeping round the doorway.  For boys who can’t remember where they left their shoes a mere hour earlier, suddenly they are talking about stuff that happened a couple of years ago.  All in an effort to delay the zeds. Or maybe just a herculean attempt to get some rare one on one time with their mother.